Partnership working on plan to tackle Lincs farm flooding

A group of organisations led by the NFU is seeking support from the government for a collaborative pilot scheme to protect farmland in Lincolnshire from flooding. 

Many thousands of acres of prime food-producing land in the county remain submerged after severe winter flooding and months of relentless rainfall.

The NFU says recent flooding in the county has highlighted the need for a more collaborative approach to water management. And if the pilot scheme proves successful, it hopes the government will extend it to other flood-affected parts of the country.

See also: Environment Agency blamed for farm flooding devastation

The Lincolnshire Flood Risk and Water Management Partnership, made up of the NFU, the Environment Agency (EA), Witham Third and Witham Fourth internal drainage boards, the Association of Drainage Authorities (ADA) and Lincolnshire County Council, is collaborating on river catchment issues and has put forward key requests to Defra minister Robbie Moore and his department.

‘Prioritise maintenance’

The EA must prioritise essential maintenance of flood defences and critical watercourses and support a sustainable approach to recovery in Lincolnshire, the NFU and partners are saying.

Under the proposal, the agency would be able to repair breaches and weak spots in their systems following this year’s flooding events.

It must also be able to continue to maintain flood defences and watercourses to protect agricultural land, and explore future water and land management options for the region.

In the longer term, the partnership is seeking a review of flood risk and water management in the region, adaptation options including paying farmers to store water, and ways for risk management authorities to work better together.

Internal drainage boards (IDBs) – local public authorities that manage water levels and drainage in England – are seen as a key part of this collaborative approach alongside the EA and farmers.

They would help areas recover from the damage this winter and continue to play a critical role in water level and flood risk management.

‘Great opportunity’

Innes Thomson, chief executive of the ADA, which represents IDBs nationally, said: “We are sleepwalking into an economic, environmental and social disaster if we fail to invest in looking after our water level and flood risk management assets.

“For many years, experts have been warning of the need to manage and maintain the flood-risk assets we have, alongside building strategic new ones. Government now has a great opportunity to trial a different approach through this partnership.”

The government has not yet made any financial commitment to the proposed pilot in Lincolnshire.

However, in the Spring Budget, the government committed £75m of funding for IDBs for storm recovery and asset replacement. The funding aims to help IDBs recover from the costs and damages incurred from recent flooding, and to replace ageing equipment which would otherwise not attract flood-defence grant-in-aid funding.